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6 Mistakes That Slow Down Your Metabolism

Keeping your metabolism high is crucial for losing weight and
keeping it off.

Unfortunately, there are several common lifestyle mistakes that
may be slowing down your metabolism.

Doing these on a regular basis could make it hard to lose
weight and make you more prone to weight gain in the future.

Here are 6 lifestyle mistakes that can slow down your

1. Eating Too Few Calories

Overweight Man Looking Down at a Small Meal of Lettuce Leaves

Eating too few calories
can cause a major decrease in metabolism.

Although a calorie deficit is needed for weight loss, it can be
counterproductive for your calorie intake to drop too low.

When you dramatically lower your calorie intake, your body
senses that food is scarce and lowers the rate at which it
burns calories.

Controlled studies on lean and overweight people have confirmed
that consuming less than 1,000 calories per day can have a
significant impact on your metabolic rate (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Most studies measure resting metabolic rate, which is the
number of calories burned during rest. However, some also
measure calories burned during rest and activity over 24 hours,
which is referred to as total daily energy expenditure.

In one study, when obese women ate 420 calories per day for
four to six months, their resting metabolic rates slowed down

What’s more, even after they increased their calorie intake
over the following five weeks, their resting metabolic rates
remained much lower than before the diet (3).

In another study, overweight people were asked to consume 890
calories per day. After three months, the total number of
calories they burned per day was found to have dropped by 633
calories, on average (4).

It appears that even when calorie restriction is more moderate,
it can slow metabolism somewhat.

In a four-day study of 32 people, the resting metabolic rate of
people who ate 1,114 calories per day slowed more than twice as
much as of those who consumed 1,462 calories daily. However,

weight loss
was similar for both groups (5).

If you’re going to lose weight by calorie restriction, then
don’t restrict your calorie intake too much or for too long.

Bottom Line: Cutting calories too much and
for too long lowers metabolic rate, which can make weight
loss and weight maintenance more difficult.

2. Skimping on Protein

Cooked Chicken Breast

Eating enough protein
is extremely important for achieving
and maintaining a healthy weight.

Studies have shown that, in addition to helping you feel full,
a high protein intake can significantly increase the rate at
which your body burns calories (6, 7, 8).

The increase in metabolism that occurs after digestion is
called the thermic effect of food (TEF).

The thermic effect of protein is much higher than the thermic
effects of carbs or fat. Indeed, eating protein has been
observed to temporarily increase metabolism by about 20–30%,
versus 5–10% for carbs and 3% or less for fat (9).

Although metabolic rate inevitably slows during weight loss and
continues to be slower during weight maintenance, there’s
evidence that higher protein intake can minimize this effect.

In one study, participants followed one of three diets in an
effort to maintain a 10–15% weight loss.

The diet highest in protein reduced participants’ total daily
energy expenditure by only 97 calories, versus a decrease of
297–423 calories in people who consumed less protein (10).

Another study found that people needed to eat at least 0.5
grams of protein per pound (1.2 grams/kg) of their body weight
in order to prevent their metabolism from slowing during and
after weight loss (11).

Bottom Line: Protein increases metabolic
rate more than carbs or fat. Increased protein intake helps
preserve metabolic rate during weight loss and maintenance.

3. Leading a Sedentary Lifestyle

Young Blonde Lying on a Bed Watching TV and Eating Popcorn

Being sedentary may lead to a significant decrease in the
number of calories you burn every day.

Unfortunately, many people have lifestyles that mainly involve
sitting at work, which can have negative effects on metabolic
rate and overall health (12).

Although working out or playing sports can have a major impact
on the number of calories you burn, even basic physical
activity such as standing up, cleaning and taking the stairs
can help you burn calories.

This type of activity is referred to as non-exercise activity
thermogenesis (NEAT).

One study found that performing a high amount of NEAT regularly
could burn up to 2,000 additional calories per day. However,
such a dramatic increase is not realistic for most people

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Another study found that watching TV while you’re sitting burns
an average of 8% fewer calories than typing while you’re
sitting and an average of 16% fewer calories than standing

Working at a standing desk
or simply getting up to walk
around several times per day can help increase your NEAT and
prevent your metabolism from dropping.

Bottom Line: Being inactive reduces the
number of calories you burn during the day. Try to minimize
sitting and increase your general activity levels.

4. Not Getting Enough High-Quality Sleep

Silver Alarm Clock

is extremely important for good health.

Sleeping fewer hours than you need may increase your risk of a
number of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and
depression (15).

Several studies have found that inadequate sleep may also lower
your metabolic rate and increase your likelihood of weight gain
(16, 17, 18).

One study found that healthy adults who slept four hours per
night for five nights in a row experienced a 2.6% decrease in
resting metabolic rate, on average.

Participants’ resting metabolic rate returned to normal
following 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep (17).

Lack of sleep is made worse by sleeping during the day instead
of at night. This sleep pattern disrupts your body’s circadian
rhythms, the biological changes in your body that occur in
response to light and darkness over a 24-hour cycle.

A five-week study found that prolonged sleep restriction
combined with circadian rhythm disruption significantly
decreased participants’ resting metabolic rate by an average of
8% (18).

Bottom Line: Getting adequate, high-quality
sleep and sleeping at night rather than during the day can
help preserve your metabolic rate.

5. Drinking Sugary Beverages

Glass and a Bottle Full of Granulated Sugar and Sugar Cubes

Sugar-sweetened drinks
are the absolute worst beverages for

A high consumption of sodas and other sugary drinks has been
linked to all sorts of health problems, including insulin
resistance, diabetes and obesity (19, 20).

Most of the negative effects of sugar-sweetened beverages can
be attributed to fructose. Table sugar contains 50% fructose,
while high-fructose corn syrup contains 55% fructose.

Results from a 2012 study suggest that frequently consuming
sugar-sweetened beverages may slow down your metabolism.

In this 12-week controlled study, overweight and obese people
who consumed 25% of their calories as fructose-sweetened
beverages on a weight-maintaining diet experienced a
significant drop in metabolic rate (21).

Unfortunately, there aren’t many studies that have measured how
metabolic rate is affected by a high intake of sugar-sweetened

However, research in animals and humans has shown that excessive
fructose consumption
promotes increased fat storage in the
belly and liver (22, 23, 24, 25, 26).

Bottom Line: A high intake of
fructose-containing beverages has been found to reduce
metabolic rate and promote fat storage in the belly and

6. A Lack of Resistance Training


Working out with weights is a great strategy to keep your
metabolism from slowing down.

Strength training has been shown to increase metabolic rate in
healthy people, as well as those who have heart disease or are
overweight or obese (27, 28, 29, 30).

Resistance training increases muscle mass, which makes up much
of the fat-free mass in your body. Having a higher amount of
fat-free mass significantly increases the number of calories
you burn at rest (31, 32, 33).

Fortunately, doing even minimal amounts of strength training
appears to boost energy expenditure.

In a six-month study, people who performed resistance training
for 11 minutes per day for three days a week experienced a 7.4%
increase in resting metabolic rate and burned 125 extra
calories per day, on average (34).

In contrast, not doing any strength training can cause your
metabolic rate to decline, especially during weight loss and as
you get older (31, 35, 36).

Bottom Line: Resistance training increases
muscle mass and helps preserve metabolic rate during weight
loss and aging.

Take Home Message

Engaging in lifestyle behaviors that slow down your metabolism
can lead to weight gain over time. It’s best to avoid or
minimize them as much as possible.

Fortunately, there are also many things that can boost
your metabolism
to help you lose weight and keep it off.

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